Kollywood strike: Tamil film industry is losing Rs 3-4 cr every day due to standoff between producers, theatre owners

Sreedhar Pillai

April 09, 2018 08:43:00 IST

Today (9 April), it will be 40 days of no new Tamil releases. It is due to the standoff between Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC) and cinema theatres in Tamil Nadu over Virtual Print Fees (VPF). TFPC chief Vishal and others want Digital Service Providers (DSP) to reduce the VPF prices further and introduce a “sunset clause”.

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It is a battle between producers on one side and theatre owners supported by DSPs , who are unwilling to share the cost of VPF. Vishal wants the theatres to share the weekly cost of VPF for screening films and in one or two years scrap it altogether. So far no theatre has willingly come forward to share the VPF cost and existing DSPs controlled by the market leader Qube is not on the same page as Vishal. Suddenly on Saturday (7 April) evening, TFPC announced that they have signed a deal with Aerox, a newly formed DSP who will provide VPF at 50 per cent of the cost of Qube. Strangely Aerox has not signed up with any single theatre and their operations are not yet known.

A lot of pressure is mounting on Vishal from cinema theatres in Tamil Nadu who are playing mostly Other Language Films (OLF) and from producers who have completed their films and are waiting for release. When director and producer Karthik Subbaraj decided to release his silent horror film Mercury in Tamil, Hindi and Telugu and announced its release date as 13 April, all hell broke loose. The other producers reminded him that the strike is for a common cause; Karthik under pressure has backed off for the time being. But how long will Vishal be able to keep his flock together as the entire industry including production and shooting has come to a standstill?

Vishal cannot call off the strike without getting an assurance that VPF will be shared between producers and theatre owners. The industry is said to be losing anywhere between Rs 3 to 4 cr a day due to no new releases in Tamil. 85 per cent of screens in Tamil Nadu, especially in small towns and rural areas, depend on new Tamil content to feed their theatres. The OLF runs only in Chennai city and suburbs, which has resulted in many screens closing down or are playing old MGR and Rajinikanth films to get some footfall.

If the strike continues for a few more days, Kollywood will miss out on its prime summer season and the Vishu holiday weekend which marks the Tamil new year, starting 13 April. Nearly 20 films are censored and ready for immediate release. Rajinikanth’s Kaala was given ‘special permission’ by Vishal and it has been censored with an U/A certificate and rumoured to have 14 cuts due to its extreme violent scenes. Kaala is scheduled for a 27 April release, and is now waiting for the strike to be called off. Vishal says that once the strike is over, films will release in order of their censor certificate. The theatres are clear that they will prioritise Kaala as they are desperate for a biggie to bring back the audiences to the halls.

Meanwhile, the Cauvery issue has taken a toll on cinema halls, too. On 8 April, the entire film industry came out to protest in silence at Valluvar Kottam in Chennai. Political parties in the state have taken to the streets to protest. Kollywood’s future politicians like Kamal Haasan and a very reluctant Rajinikanth are now in the fore of the Cauvery protest. The situation in Tamil Nadu is tense as some political parties wants to stop the IPL 2018 matches of Chennai Super Kings scheduled to be held in Chennai. Rajinikanth says IPL matches in Tamil Nadu would be embarrassing and wants CSK players to wear black bands in protest.

Vishal now wants the Tamil Nadu government's intervention in the strike. A meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday (11 April) by the state's Minister of Information, Kadambur Raju, who has called producers and theatre associations for a meeting to sort out the issues. If the minister is able to work out an amicable settlement between the warring factions, the earliest that the Tamil films can release is from 20 April. The next few days are going to be crucial for Kollywood, one way or the other as external pressure is building to withdraw the strike.

Updated Date: Apr 09, 2018 09:06 AM